An often compelling story of Satan’s falls, despite some hackneyed plot devices.

WAR OF WINGS

McElroy follows in John Milton’s footsteps in this slick, contemporary recreation of the war for heaven.

Readers have probably heard this story before: An upstart angel gets too big for his britches and attempts a heavenly coup. War ensues, but chaos is averted as hordes of superpowerful rebels are thrown into a fiery pit. That McElroy has the courage to take on this oft-told tale speaks both to his daring and to his ambition. Often, he’s up to his divine task. He writes confidently—sometimes brilliantly—and his story of arrogance, spite and betrayal has a truly epic feel (“A path had just been paved for angels to look at their own desire and decide what they were missing”). As readers shuttle between the two camps, they’ll think as often of Homer as of the Bible. However, when the author zooms in and focuses on individual characters, his touch is less deft. Unlike Milton’s Satan—whose diabolical allure is part of the thrill of his 1667 poem Paradise Lost—McElroy’s Lucifer is overweening and cardboard flat. All thoughtless pride, he makes his first appearance in the novel as quite literally a rock star, playing a heavenly guitar solo only to seethe when he’s upstaged by God; “I am the highest angel in Heaven,” he mutters. Readers next find him overseeing the construction of his own throne, asking a minion if it is “worthy of sitting next to God’s.” The Lord is also somewhat two-dimensional and has the trite habit of speaking in Bible verses. However, the author’s characterization of Lucifer’s foil, Gabriel, is subtler and thus more gripping; like the Amish craftspeople who leave a flaw in each quilt, the humble angel resists perfection. It’s a nice touch, but the novel can’t help pounding it home—sometimes quite literally: Working on a heavenly building, for example, Gabriel knocks a joist slightly askew, and walking by a pristine stream in paradise, he kicks dirt into the flow. Overall, McElroy’s retelling of the traditional Christian tale is detailed and sometimes thrilling; however, it might have been excellent if it had been a bit more original.

An often compelling story of Satan’s falls, despite some hackneyed plot devices.

Pub Date: March 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1612541549

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

THE LAST GRADUATE

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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